After going 56 years without attending a national political convention, I’m headed to Charlotte for my second convention in a week. For school choice advocates, the Democratic National Convention will be a somewhat hostile environment, unlike last week’s Republican National Convention in Tampa, where all forms of school choice were enthusiastically embraced.
As we’ve discussed previously on redefinED, the political left, including wide swaths of the Democratic Party, was supportive of giving parents – especially low-income and minority parents – access to more diverse schooling options in the 1960s and throughout most of the 1970s. That support began eroding when the National Education Association gave Jimmy Carter its first-ever presidential endorsement in 1976, and was mostly gone by 1980.
President Clinton’s support of charter schools marked the beginning of a renewed interest in school choice within the party, and pro- and anti-school choice forces have been battling ever since. After two decades of struggle, the momentum today is clearly on the side of the pro school choice Democrats, which has caused anti-choice Dems to become more desperate and strident. American Federation of Teachers’ President Randi Weingarten’s recent attack on the new teacher/parent empowerment movie, Won’t Back Down, was so disingenuous and hyperbolic I was embarrassed for her.
Both Weingarten and NEA President Dennis Van Roekel will be participating in a town hall meeting tomorrow sponsored by Democrats for Education Reform. Four years ago, at the Democratic convention in Denver, DFER burst on the scene at a similar event, and, with close ties to the Obama Administration, immediately became a majority power center within the party. I’m anxious to see what issues predominate tomorrow, and how Weingarten and Van Roekel position themselves.